Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency

2011.02.22 Scope of the Act

The General Act on Equal Treatment is applied to both labour law and civil law.

In labour law, the General Act on Equal Treatment applies to all fields of employment:

  • access to gainful employment (job advertisement, application procedure, job interview, selection criteria, conditions of recruitment)
  • when negotiating employment contracts (terms and conditions of employment and working conditions, earnings, fringe benefits, social security benefits)
  • in vocational training (vocational retraining, initial and continuing vocational training)
  • in connection with questions of career advancement (promotion, transfer to another post for a longer period of time or assignment of new functions within the same job, instructions about initial, further and continuing vocational training)
  • in case of a membership of an employees' union, trade union or professional association
  • when an employment relationship is terminated, and even beyond this, for example in occupational pension schemes.

The rights stipulated in the General Act on Equal Treatment apply to the whole labour force – without exception. Employees in the private sector and public sector employees may refer to them in the same way as civil servants or civilian service conscripts and recognised conscientious objectors. For soldiers – women and men alike – there are analogous rules in the Soldiers' Act.

The main emphasis of the scope under civil law is on bulk business, i.e. business transactions which can be concluded by everybody

  • irrespective of a person's identity,
  • on comparable conditions,
  • in a large number of cases.

Typical bulk business includes taxi rides, visits to restaurants as well as trade in used cars by commercial merchants. The term 'bulk' refers to the provider of goods and services.

The protection by law also takes effect in the case of insurance under private law, which has been taken out later than 22 December 2007. However, where insurance contracts have been modified subsequent to the introduction of the General Act on Equal Treatment (18 August 2006), these modifications might – depending on the respective circumstances – infringe upon the provisions of the General Act on Equal Treatment. A different treatment on grounds of gender, religion, a disability or sexual orientation may be admissible, depending on the respective circumstances.

Exemptions from equal treatment shall only be admissible if there are factual and justified reasons, i.e. if, for example, this is the only way to avoid danger or damages. Also the need for protecting the right of privacy (for example separate opening hours for men and women at a sauna) are considered as an adequate reason.

The General Act on Equal Treatment shall not be applicable to obligations under family law and law of succession.

Furthermore, the General Act on Equal Treatment shall not be applicable to obligations in connection with particular relationships of proximity or of trust. In the rental of housing, this shall apply to those cases where both parties are living on the same real property. The law assumes that landlords or landladies who rent out fewer than 50 flats, are not involved in bulk business, so that the ban on discrimination is not applicable.

A person who has been discriminated against may assert his or her claims to removal or failure of discrimination as well as to compensation and damages for pain and suffering